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Cooking with Solar Energy: Flinn STEM Design Challenge™

By: The Flinn Staff

In the Cooking with Solar Energy—Flinn STEM Design Challenge™, capture solar energy in a useable way. Learn how solar ovens work and cook some yummy snacks with energy from the sun.

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The Earth receives enough energy from the Sun every hour to meet its energy needs for an entire year. The challenge is to capture solar energy in a usable way. Solar ovens are a fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly method of using the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation to cook food. Learn how solar ovens work and cook some yummy snacks with energy from the sun—no electricity or flames needed! In the first part of this activity, students make a basic box-type solar oven and then investigate how high the internal temperature reaches in a given amount of time. Once the data are collected and analyzed, students then apply their knowledge of science concepts, such as heat transfer, reflection, absorption and the greenhouse effect, to design and implement improvements for a more efficient oven.

Complete for eight student groups, including boxes. Thermometers are required and available separately.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Asking questions and defining problems
Planning and carrying out investigations
Engaging in argument from evidence
Obtaining, evaluation, and communicating information
Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer
MS-PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life
HS-PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and effect
Scale, proportion, and quantity
Energy and matter

Performance Expectations

MS-PS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.
MS-PS3-4. Plan an investigation to determine the relationships among the energy transferred, the type of matter, the mass, and the change in the average kinetic energy of the particles as measured by the temperature of the sample.
MS-PS3-5. Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.
HS-PS3-3. Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.